Pipeline is widely considered the deadliest wave in the world, having killed at least five surfers in the past decade.
UPDATE: Joel Parkinson won Pipe Masters and his first ASP World Title on Friday, December 14.
THE PEDIGREE: Professional surfing came of age in the 1970s, and no other event measured up to the Pipe Masters. “The other pro tour events all seemed optional by comparison,” says surf historian Matt Warshaw. “Dudes got hurt. You couldn’t look away. It was, and still is, the surf contest all other surf contests want to be.”
THE SWELL: Pipeline breaks best on a west swell, which is most prominent October to March. Local knowledge is key: while some Pipeline waves hit the reef at just the right angle, creating flawless semi-truck-size barrels, others slam headlong into the shallow, razor-sharp reef.
THE TOLL: Pipeline is widely considered the deadliest wave in the world, having killed at least five surfers in the past decade, including Tahitian big-wave pro Malik Joyeux in 2005.
THE BEACH: During the Masters, some 5,000 people roam the short stretch of sand fronting Pipeline, only 50 yards offshore.
THE MEDIA: It’s not uncommon to see two or three dozen photographers bobbing in the channel and dozens more onshore, with jet skis swirling in the water. This year the event will be broadcast live at Vanstriplecrownofsurfing.com.
LOCALISM: At the Pipe Masters, 10 wild-card entries are reserved for Hawaiians—a rule enacted in 2004 after locals complained about the event taking over their wave. At other times of the year, a hard-partying crew of surfers known as Da Hui “protect” the lineup. (Plug “Da Hui surf fights” into YouTube for examples.)
THE PARTIES: Pros typically stay in one of a dozen beach houses owned or rented by surf companies, and the festivities can get out of hand. Last year, tension from the lineup carried over into the Billabong house, where company executives reportedly became involved in a conflict with Eddie Rothman, leader of Da Hui, and his son Makua.